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REVIEW: “The Merchant of Death” by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock



All’s fair in love and war.

There’s something rotten in the state of Indiana. When con man Henry Page takes it upon himself to investigate the death of an elderly patient at a care facility, he does so in true Shakespearean tradition: dressed as a girl.

FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness has more to worry about than Henry’s latest crazy idea. Someone is trying to send him a message—via a corpse with a couple of bullets in it. He needs to figure out who’s trying to set him up before he gets arrested, and he really doesn’t have time for Henry’s shenanigans. Then again, he’d probably be able to focus better if Henry didn’t look so damn distracting in a babydoll dress and a wig.

But when Mac discovers that Henry has been keeping a secret that connects the cases, he has to find a way to live on the right side of the law when he just might be in love with the wrong sort of man.


A little less fun, a little more drama, and a whole lot more plot!  That’s how I’d describe the second installment in the series Playing the Fool, that follows the adventures of Mac and Henry again. We left the boys on a bit of a low in The Two Gentlemen of Altona. Just as things between them started to pick up, Henry was at his old tricks again and ran away. This also meant that their much anticipated love scene went down the drain, leading to readers complaining about a nasty case of blue balls.

In Merchant of Death, we meet Henry while he’s waist deep in a new murder mystery. In at attempt to figure out if his sister Viola (one of those instantly lovable characters) is legitimately scared of an ‘Angel of Death’ that wanders about in the care facility she’s in, he checks himself in at the place…as his sister. Hello, cross dressing!

“Well, she’s my twin sister, okay? And she’s in a lot of fucking trouble, because this place is running some kind of scam, maybe even killing people. And I’m not leaving until I find out what’s going on.”
Mac sighed. He was an idiot. No amount of lust was worth the constant aggravation of dealing with Henry Page. Sebastian Hanes. Whoever.

The comic relief from the first book’s really toned down here. It’s what made The Two Gentlemen of Altona stand out for me. It’s what made this series feel different from Henry & Rock’s earlier collaborations. So I’m in two minds about this development. On one hand, I feel like this book needed to go deeper; the guys deal with much more serious issues here. It’s obviously a darker read. On the other hand, the fun and banter are also what made this series special to me in the first place.

But unlike in the first book, the plot doesn’t take a ride in the backseat! The crime and mystery aspects of the story play a much bigger role here, and both MCs soon find themselves in hot water. We also learn more about what makes the characters tick. Especially Henry brings along some baggage in the form of past traumas. I’m not a fan of this type of ‘easy drama’ to create character depth, but that’s just probably just a personal thing. It does little to change the fact that the story’s as fast paced and entertaining as the first. All in all, a pretty great sequel.

Don’t forget to check out the blog tour and giveaway!



22439652Title: The Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool #2)
Author: Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Pages: 205
Release Date: January 31st 2015
Purchase Links: Amazon

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This entry was posted on February 6, 2015 by in Cops / Cowboys / Military, Mystery / Suspense, Reviewer: Katinka and tagged , , , , .

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